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Isaiah 45 in Philippians 2, or Not?

  

Is Paul quoting Isaiah 45 in Philippians 2? I have often heard people make this claim and it seems to be uncontroversial. However, I’m not really sure. Below is a table comparing these texts. Note, especially, the underlined words.

Isaiah 45:21, 23
21 “Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD [Yahweh]? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me….
23 “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
Philippians 2:9-11
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In the original text, from Isaiah, every knee will bow to Yahweh whereas in Philippians, the Apostle Paul applies this same act to Jesus, specifically in reference to confessing Jesus as Lord. I have been puzzling over this parallel for some time and have not yet reached a conclusion. Is Philippians really quoting Isaiah 45 or is this just a coincidence? To make matters worse, Phil. 2.6-11 is often regarded by most scholars to be a pre-existing hymn/poem that Paul has interwoven into this epistle. So, maybe I should not expect some specific notation in the text alerting me to the fact that a quotation from the Hebrew Bible is happening, not that Paul always does that anyhow. I don’t know. I’m totally open on this one. Is he quoting (or using a hymn that quotes) Isaiah 45 and applying it to Jesus or not? If he is this would be an example of agency where some action originally attributed to God gets applied to Christ as God’s representative. After all, the exaltation of Jesus Christ so that he is confessed as Lord is all to the glory of God the Father anyhow. But, I’m not convinced as of yet that this is even quoting the Old Testament. Does anyone want to try and convince me either way?

9 Responses to “Isaiah 45 in Philippians 2, or Not?”

  1. on 10 Feb 2010 at 9:56 amFrank D

    Sean, Phil 2:10 states “at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow”. It doesn’t say they are bowing to Jesus. Or am I missing something?

  2. on 10 Feb 2010 at 9:57 amFiona

    I don’t think it is quoting the Old Testament. I don’t have the needed scriptural knowledge to try to convince you either way, but here is a very simple rule that I have found to be effective in cases like this- “Take scriptures at their most likely and reasonable meaning, before investigating it further…’ See, it really is easy. I came to this opinion because, due to illness, my understanding of many things is not as it should be. When getting frustrated (with myself, like the lady in your picture), I remembered something vitally important; the Bible was written for ordinary(sometimes “simple”) people to understand. So, thats how I understand it.
    Fiona

  3. on 10 Feb 2010 at 10:56 amRay

    This is an interesting question. There are so many prophesies about Jesus that are hidden in what the prophets spoke of pertaining to their own life and their sufferings, and there are prophesies pertaining to God that apply to Jesus.

    So often we see that what goes for God, goes for Jesus. I always like to see where the old and the new flow together. That’s always a good place to be.

    When we bow to the name of Jesus, we humble ourselves before God.

  4. on 10 Feb 2010 at 1:25 pmKen

    Even if this not a quote per se, it could be a general allusion to Isaiah 45. Since a proper reading of Philippians 2 involves Jesus’ exaltation resulting from his humble obedience as a man, there is a wonderful “bowing the knee” to God’s agent that ultimately glorifies God Himself. A brief allusion to God’s sovereignty in Isaiah 45 would and could be very appropriate.

  5. on 10 Feb 2010 at 6:26 pmAndrew Patrick

    I think Paul is quoting the Old Testament.

    There’s so much interweaving in the scriptures that cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence. We are expected to interweave the scriptures (which is why we have four gospels) and we are instructed to read here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:10-13).

    … and besides, Paul was raised on the Hebrew scriptures, as a Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Pharisee (see Php 3:5) and so it’s quite probable that he would choose to quote Isaiah.

    Sean commented:

    I’m totally open on this one. Is he quoting (or using a hymn that quotes) Isaiah 45 and applying it to Jesus or not? If he is this would be an example of agency where some action originally attributed to God gets applied to Christ as God’s representative.

    I am looking at the same data, but arriving at a different conclusion. And since you’re open on this one…

    To me, it looks like a clear equivalence between God and Christ, in a similar fashion as Paul quotes Psalm 18 in Ephesians 4-8-10 “thou hast led captivity captive…” applying a scripture naming the LORD God who ascends as meaning he that “also descended first into the lower parts of the earth.”

    Back to Isaiah, there was a part that didn’t get posted in between the verses… (specifically Isaiah 45:22, which I am comparing with Num 21:8 and John 3:14-15.)

    Num 21:8 KJV
    (8) And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

    Isa 45:22 KJV
    (22) Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

    Joh 3:14-15 KJV
    (14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
    (15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

    Even the “all the ends of the earth” from Isaiah 45:22 seems to thread together nicely:

    Joh 12:32 KJV
    (32) And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

    So, in conclusion, it looks very much to me that Isaiah 45:21-23 is a Messianic prophecy, in more ways than one (from both John and Philippians) but also a strong equivalence of God and Christ:

    Isa 45:21-22 KJV
    (21) Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
    (22) Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

    Why else would all those statements be flanking that phrase?

    Take care,
    -Andrew

  6. on 10 Feb 2010 at 6:40 pmAndrew Patrick

    re: post 5

    That is supposed to be Psalm 68:18 above “thou has led captivity captive” and not Psalm 18.

  7. on 10 Feb 2010 at 7:19 pmRay

    No matter how much equavilence we see between Jesus and God there is always a disctinction to be found somewhere in scripture.

    Here’s an example of the old and new coming together in Christ.
    This is from Psalm 129. This I saw the other day and it reminded me of our healing because of Jesus.

    I visited a Lutheran church last Sunday, the first in many years and this Psalm reminded me of their service for the pastor would say something and then the congregation would say something.

    Psalm 129:1-4
    Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
    Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.
    The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.
    The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.

    Because Jesus took the stripes that were laid against him who lived
    in righteousness, God hath cut the cords of the wicked that they shall not prevail against me. Because of Jesus, the wicked shall not
    prevail against me, though many a time they cause my troubles.

    The cords of the wicked that should have killed me are now but a light affliction, for God hath cut their cords because of Jesus.

  8. on 15 Feb 2010 at 3:35 amAndrew Patrick

    Some additional evidence that Paul is quoting Isaiah: he demonstrates that he is very familiar with this verse, because he has already quoted it once before in his epistles.

    Rom 14:11 KJV
    (11) For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

    Comparing that with the original Isaiah quote:

    Isa 45:21-25 KJV
    (21) Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
    (22) Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
    (23) I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
    (24) Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
    (25) In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.

    Consider the full text of Isaiah, it’s easy to see why Paul associates it with Christ.

    1) the one is “the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:6)

    2) all men shall come unto him (John 12:32)

    3) all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. How many people can you think of that are incensed because of Christ?

    Yet Isaiah reads that they shall look unto God and be saved. It’s the type of prophecy that makes sense with hindsight, and Paul’s substitutions indicate that he’s reading this the same way.

    Php 2:6-11 KJV
    (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
    (7) But made himself
    of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
    (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
    (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

    I can think of one name which is above every other name… in the most literal sense, it’s the same name translated “LORD” in the Old Testament.

    (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
    (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    I’m aware that most modern versions alter verse 6 until it reads as if Jesus would never think to make himself equal with God. Yet the context of Paul’s allusion to Isaiah demonstrates what he means: Paul himself makes Jesus equal to God.

    Conclusion:

    Because Paul also quoted this same passage in Isaiah in his epistle to the Romans, I think there is very good evidence that Phil 2 is not just similar by a mere accident. Besides, Paul would be the type to quote scripture.

    -Andrew

  9. on 29 Apr 2011 at 10:40 pmRandy Turner

    I belong to the Advent Christian denomination and teach Sunday School. This Sunday, May 1st, the lesson covers Phillipians 2:1-11. In the lesson, the publisher-writer makes it clear in their review of Phillipians 2:5-7 that {Paul makes it uncondidtionally clear in verse 6 that CHRIST IS GOD. He has a divine nature, and in all respects is equal in deity to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Any “so called Christian” group that diminishes the deity of Christ has to go through significant verbal gymnastics to get around this plainly stated truth that Jesus is God.}

    In our denomiation there are many churches who believe and teach the above. There are many in my class who are mainly seniors who also believe the above. They know I don’t, yet we agree to disagree as thus far not many have been moved from there position or thought.

    My reason for writing is this. How would you handle this situation when the lesson plan so blantantly expounds the trinity doctrine? Is this something you gloss over, a battle not worth fighting, or once again explain the passages which disagree with the conclusion reached by the lesson writer? I searched the blog but found nothing which addressed these particular verses. It would seem this chapter is the heart blood of the trinitarian doctrine, making Christ equal with God.

    There aren’t any Churches of the Abrahamic Faith in my area. If there was I would quickly change. However, as a teacher, I find myself duty bound to teach the “truth” and let things fall where they may. Your thoughts are appreciated.

  

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